February 20 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – February 20 *

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1864 – Confederate troops defeat three African American and six white
regiments at the Battle of Olustee, about fifty miles from
Jacksonville, Florida. The African-American units are the
8th U.S. Colored Troops, the 35th U.S. Colored Infantry, and
the famous 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. It is the
54th Massachusetts’ fighting that allowed General Truman
Seymour’s Union forces to retreat. One white veteran of the
battle states: ” The colored troops went in grandly, and they
fought like devils.” A regrettable episode in the aftermath
of the battle is the apparent mistreatment of Union African
American soldiers by the Confederates.

1895 – Frederick Douglass, famous African American abolitionist and
diplomat, joins the ancestors in Washington, DC at the age of
78. His home in Washington will be later turned into a
national monument under the auspices of the National Park

1911 – Frances Ellen Watkins Harper joins the ancestors in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 85. She had been a
writer and antislavery, women’s rights, and temperance

1925 – Alex La Guma is born in Cape Town, South Africa. He will
become a novelist whose writings reflect the lives of the
ghetto dwellers in the ‘Coloured’ sections of Capetown,
portrayed best in his novel, “A Walk in the Night.” The
ghettos and shanties of the Cape were his milieu, and he will
never depict the lives of the impoverished with either
rancor or self-pity. The powerful strokes of his pen will
paint a picture of the starkness and reality of their lives.
He allowed the tin and hessian fabrics of the rat-infested,
leaking hovels to spell it out. He will become involved
with the South African Coloured People’s Organisation,
playing a very active part in its affairs. He will be
exiled in 1966 and move with his family to London. At the
time he joins the ancestors on October 11, 1985, he was the
Chief Representative of the African National Congress in Cuba.

1927 – Sidney Poitier is born prematurely in Miami, Florida, weighing
only three pounds. His parents are on a regular trip to the
U.S. to sell tomatoes and other produce. He will be raised
in the Bahamas and return to the United States as a teenager
to live with his older brother in Miami. He will move to New
York City in 1945 to study acting. He will become one of the
modern movies’ leading men, making his screen debut in 1950
and earning praise in such films as “Cry the Beloved Country,”
“Blackboard Jungle,” “Porgy and Bess,” “A Raisin in the Sun,”
“To Sir With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Guess
Who’s Coming to Dinner.” His 1965 role in “Lilies of the
Field” will earn him an Oscar, the first for an African
American in a leading role.

1929 – Writer Wallace Thurman’s play “Harlem” opens in New York City.
It is the first successful play by an African American

1936 – John Hope, president of Atlanta University, joins the ancestors
at the age of sixty seven.

1937 – Nancy Wilson is born in Chillicothe, Ohio. She will become a
well-known jazz and pop singer, singing with Cannonball
Adderly, George Shearing, Art Farmer and Chick Corea, among
others. She will make more than 50 albums, including “With My
Lover Beside Me,” featuring the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and
the music of Barry Manilow.

1951 – Emmett L. Ashford, one of baseball’s most popular figures,
becomes the first African American umpire in organized
baseball. Ashford is certified to be a substitute in the
Southwestern International League. He will later (1966)
become the first African American major league umpire, working
in the American League.

1963 – Baseball great, Willie “The Say Hey Kid” Mays, signs with the
San Francisco Giants as baseball’s highest paid player (at
that time). He will earn $100,000 a year.

1963 – Charles Barkley is born in Leeds, Alabama. He will forego his
senior year at Auburn University to enter the NBA as a forward
for the Philadelphia 76ers. Barkley will post averages of 20
or more points and at least 10 rebounds per game for 11
seasons. His achievements during that span will be remarkable.
He will be an All-NBA First Team selection in 1988, 1989,
1990, 1991 and 1993, an All-NBA Second Team pick in 1986,
1987, 1992, 1994 and 1995 and an All-NBA Third Team choice in
1996. He will be selected to 10 consecutive All-Star Games,
and receive more All Star votes than any other player in 1994,
and will be MVP in the 1991 All-Star classic.

1968 – State troopers use tear gas to stop civil rights demonstrations
at Alcorn A&M College in Mississippi.

1991 – African Americans win Grammys including Mariah Carey for
Best New Artist and female pop vocal, Anita Baker for female
R&B vocal, Luther Vandross for male R&B vocal, Living Colour
for best hard rock performance, M.C. Hammer for best rap solo
and best R&B song for “U Can’t Touch This,” and Chaka Khan and
Ray Charles for best R&B vocal by a duo or group. Quincy
Jones becomes the all-time non-classical Grammy winner when he
wins six awards at these 33rd annual Grammy Awards, including
album of the year, “Back on the Block.”

1997 – T. Uriah Butler joins the ancestors in Fyzabad, Trinidad at the
age of 100. Born in Grenada, he had been a major labor
organizer and politician in Trinidad. In 1975, he was awarded
Trinidad’s highest honor, The Trinity Cross.

Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Mr. Rene’ A. Perry.


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